• Professor of Chinese Literature
  • stian@fas.harvard.edu
  • http://ealc.fas.harvard.edu/people/xiaofei-tian
  • 2 Divinity Avenue | Cambridge MA, 02138

Research interests: Chinese literature and culture.

Xiaofei Tian is Professor of Chinese Literature. Her major research field is the literature and cultural history of early medieval China, but her research and teaching interests as well as publications extend to late imperial, modern, and contemporary Chinese literature and culture. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at Harvard in 1998. After teaching at Colgate University for a year, she was appointed as Assistant Professor of Premodern Chinese Literature at Cornell University in 1999. In 2000, she left her tenure- track position at Cornell to become Preceptor in Chinese at the Department of EALC, where she developed a series of ‘content courses’ in Chinese. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2005 and full professor in 2006.

Tian is the author of numerous articles, book chapters, and books in English and Chinese. Her most recent English publications are Beacon Fire and Shooting Star: The Literary Culture of the Liang (502-557) (Harvard-Yenching, 2007), Visionary Journeys: Travel Writings from Early Medieval and Nineteenth-century China (Harvard-Yenching, 2011), and the translation of a late nineteenth-century memoir, The World of a Tiny Insect: A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and Its Aftermath, with notes and a critical introduction (University of Washington, 2014). She is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Classical Chinese Literature (1000 BCE-900 CE­) and A New Literary History of Modern China. She served as Chair of Regional Studies East Asia from 2009 to 2011. She was a Walter Channing Cabot Fellow in 2012-2013.

From the Fairbank Blog:

Exhibiting the Cultural Revolution, Part 2: The Visual Spectacle of “Dazibao”
As part of the Fairbank Center’s exhibition of dazibao (大字报 “big-character posters”) and woodcuts from 1960s China, we present a four-part series on Cultural Revolution-era artworks. Xiaofei Tian, Professor of Chinese Literature at Harvard University, presents part 2: an exploration of the imagery and visual dynamism of dazibao.

From the Fairbank Podcast: 



The Halberd at Red Cliff: Jian'an and the Three Kingdoms. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Asia Center Publications; 2018.

Tian X ed. The Poetry of Ruan Ji translated by Stephen Owen. De Gruyter; 2017.

The World of a Tiny Insect: A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and Its Aftermath. Seattle: University of Washington Press; 2014.

Visionary Journeys: Travel Writings from Early Medieval and Nineteenth-Century China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Asia Center; 2011

Beacon Fire and Shooting Star: The Literary Culture of the Liang (502-557). Harvard Asia Center; 2007

Tao Yuanming and Manuscript Culture: The Record of A Dusty Table. Seattle: University of Washington Press; 2005


"The Wound that Speaks: Traumatic Memory in the Late Qing Manuscript The World of a Tiny Insect 會說話的傷口: 晚清抄本<微蟲世界>中的創傷記憶. 中華文史論叢," 2017;125 (2017.1) :371-396.

"庾信的記憶宮殿: 中古宮廷詩歌中的創傷與暴力. 上海大學學報," 2017;34 (4) :52-64.

Tian X. "The Emperor's New Music," Lapham's Quarterly. 2017;X (4) :203-207.

"Representing Kingship and Imagining Empire in Southern Dynasties Court Poetry," T'oung Pao. 2016;102.1 (3) :18-73.

"Remaking History: The Shu and Wu Perspectives in the Three Kingdoms Period," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 2016;136 (4) :705-731

"New Songs of the Jade Terrace and the Historicist Interpretation of Medieval Chinese Literature," Huadong shifan daxue xuebao. 2016;(2)

"Fan Writing: Lu Ji, Lu Yun and the Cultural Transactions between North and South," In: Southern Identity and Southern Estrangement in Medieval Chinese Poetry. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press ; 2015. pp. 43-78.

"Material and Symbolic Economies: Letters and Gifts in Early Medieval China," In: A History of Chinese Letters and Epistolary Culture. Leiden: Brill ; 2015. pp. 135-186

"Slashing Three Kingdoms: A Case Study in Fan Production on the Chinese Web," Modern Chinese Literature and Culture. 2015;27 (1) :224-277

"影子與水文: 關於前後赤壁賦與兩幅赤壁圖," In: 翰墨薈萃: 細讀美國藏中國五代宋元書畫珍品. Beijing: Beijing University Press ; 2012. pp. 296-311.

"The Making of a Hero: Lei Feng and Some Issues of Historiography," In: The People's Republic of China at 60: An International Assessment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Asia Center ; 2011. pp. 283-95.

"宴飲與回憶: 重新思考建安," 中國文學學報. 2010;1 (1) :21-34.
新詩與現代詩. 新詩評論. 2010;2 :75-80.

"Muffled Dialect Spoken by Green Fruits: An Alternative History of Modern Chinese Poetry," Modern Chinese Literature and Culture. 2009;21 (1) :1-44.

"The Representation of Sovereignty in Chinese Vernacular Fiction," In: Text, Performance, and Gender in Chinese Literature and Music: Essays in Honor of Wilt Idema. Leiden: Brill ; 2009. pp. 211-231.

"Woman in the Tower: "Nineteen Old Poems" and the Poetics of Un/concealment," Early Medieval China. 2009;15 :3-21

"Misplaced: Three Qing Manuscripts of a Medieval Poet," Asia Major. 2007;20 (2)

"The Twilight of the Masters: Masters Literature in Early Medieval China," Journal of the American Oriental Society. 2006;126 (4) :465-486.

Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies